HILO, Hawaii – A few participants in the Thirty Meter Telescope hearing seized the opportunity to put retired judge Walter Meheula Heen on the spot about the Hawaiian Kingdom during cross-examination on December 2.
Heen was appearing as a witness for the University of Hawaii in support of the conservation district use permit for placing the TMT observatory on Mauna Kea.
“Your honor, Judge Heen,” asked Dexter Kaiama, attorney for the participating organization KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, “does the Kingdom of Hawaii continue to exist?”
The university objected, and hearing officer Judge Riki May Amano (ret) sustained the objection, saying the line of questioning was beyond the scope of Heen’s testimony.
Kaiama has made subject matter jurisdiction arguments in Hawaii courts in the past. A past State of Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals decision by Heen is a critical piece to Kaiama’s legal approach.
In 1994, Judge Heen authored a landmark ruling in State of Hawai‘i v. Lorenzo dealing with subject matter jurisdiction, in which Heen concluded it is incumbent on a Defendant to present conclusive evidence that the Hawaiian Kingdom still exists in order to have a case dismissed by claiming that the State of Hawaii has no jurisdiction over the Defendant.
The ruling opened the door for the research of Hawai‘i political scientist David Keanu Sai, Ph.D., to provide “a factual (or legal) basis for concluding that the Kingdom exists as a state,” to be used as evidence in order to dismiss cases due to a lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
On March 5, 2015, Judge Joseph E. Cardoza of the Second Circuit Court on the Island of Maui took judicial notice of Dr. Sai’s legal brief titled, “The Continuity of the Hawaiian State and the Legitimacy of the acting Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom,” at the request of the defense in State v. English, known as the case of the Molokai fishermen. The defense attorney in the case was Dexter Kaiama.
Other TMT contested case participants also tried to question Judge Heen on his landmark ruling, with a similar lack of success.